Kevin Phillips has admitted he is worried about the psychological impact on Sunderland players from missing three games.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs, the legendary former Black Cats striker claimed his former club have struggled in recent seasons when they have games in hand.
Sunderland confirmed after their 1-1 draw with AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday that their next three league fixtures have been postponed with five members of staff testing positive for coronavirus.
The club’s training base, the Academy of Light, will now be closed for 10 days and the players will return to training on 27 December before their game against Northampton Town two days later.
“I think it is an issue for Sunderland,” Phillips told Football Insider.
“We have seen them have games in hand over the past couple of seasons because of international players and when then they have to play catch up they have struggled.
“I think it has come to bite them in the backside towards the end of the season. Three games postponed and then the internationals on top of that it is difficult.
“As a player, I would rather have points on the board but it is out of their hands. Sunderland could be mid-table after the break and psychologically it could have a big impact on the team.
“It is not ideal but Lee Johnson will know that. There is nothing they can do.”
Johnson told BBC Sport he felt “let down” by the EFL after Sunderland’s game with AFC Wimbledon went ahead despite him being without eight players.
He said: “We didn’t get any help or clarity from the EFL. The threat of sanction was too much to risk. They’ve let us down.”